I study colonial North America, the United States between the American Revolution and the Civil War, the 18th- and 19th-century Atlantic world, and Native American history.
My first book, Native Tongues: Colonialism and Race from Encounter to the Reservation, examined intercultural communication between Natives and Euro-Americans and how these gave rise to theories about Native languages and the clues they were thought to hold about the ancestry and social development of peoples. I argue that those ideas informed the administration of U.S. colonialism, guiding efforts to understand and simplify Native diversity on the one hand, and justifying the elimination of Native languages on the other. I also argue that genealogical and psychological ideas became fused for much of the 19th century in a conception of race that transcended mere physical appearance.
I am currently working on a project that examines Geneva in the closing years of the ancien régime, western Pennsylvania in an era of Native-white violence and the Whiskey Rebellion, political-economic aspirations and conflicts in the national capitals of Philadelphia and Washington around the turn of the nineteenth century, diplomatic circles in Paris and London in the decade after the Congress of Vienna, and New York City as it emerged as the U.S. financial and literary metropolis. The pivot for this project—in the sense that his life, interests, and relationships provide an organizing structure for examining questions that extend beyond the biographical—is Albert Gallatin (1761-1849), a man perhaps best known for his criticisms of Alexander Hamilton and his subsequent role under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, as the longest serving Treasury Secretary in U.S. history.
I recently completed a three-year term as co-editor of reviews for Journal of the Early Republic.
At Seton Hall I teach upper-level and graduate courses on Colonial America; Revolutionary America; Inventing a Nation: The United States, 1789-1824; and Democracy, Slavery, and Manifest Destiny: The United States, 1820-1850. I also teach both halves of the American history survey as well as the sequence of departmental seminars for the major.
- Ph.D., College of William and Mary
- M.A. College of William and Mary
- B.A. Villanova University
Native Tongues: Colonialism and Race from Encounter to the Reservation. Harvard University Press, January 2015.
- "Colonial Indigenous Language Encounters in the Americas and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World," Early American Studies 15.3 (Summer 2017): 442-473 (co-authored with Sarah Rivett).
- "Ideas of Race in Early America" (14,000 words), Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, gen. ed. Jon Butler, April 2016.
- "An Eighteenth-Century Linguistic Borderland," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 136.4 (Oct. 2012): 495-498.
- "'Must not their languages be savage and barbarous like them?': Philology, Indian Removal, and Race Science," Journal of the Early Republic 30.4 (Winter 2010): 506-532.
- Program in Early American Economy and Society Fellowship, Library Company of Philadelphia, forthcoming.
- Robert L. Middlekauf Fellowship, Huntington Library, San Marino, CA, June 2017.
- Helen Watson Buckner Memorial Fellowship, John Carter Brown Library, Providence, RI, May-June 2016.
- National Endowment for the Humanities Long-Term Fellowship, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, MA, 2010-2011.
OTHER HONORS AND AWARDS
- Researcher of the Year, Seton Hall University College of Arts & Sciences, 2014-15.
- Finalist, Seton Hall University College of Arts & Sciences Professor of the Year, 2013-14.
- Ralph D. Gray Article Prize, Society for the Historians of the Early American Republic, July 2011.